Cutting from a Missal: Initial O with Christ Performing an Exorcism

Cutting from a Missal: Initial O with Christ Performing an Exorcism

c. 1520

Ink, tempera and liquid gold on vellum

Each leaf: 7.7 x 6.7 cm (3 1/16 x 2 5/8 in.)

The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection 1999.135

Description

This initial is probably the O beginning the Introit for the Third Sunday in Lent, Occuli mei semper ad Dominum (My eyes are ever towards the Lord). The Gospel reading from that Sunday tells the story of Christ casting out a demon. The artist's style is easily recognized in the facial features, and in the borders, in which he typically mixed still-life motifs, scattered small red and blue flowers, strawberries, and simulated pearls and jewels. Matteo's life dates are not known. His career probably began in Milan in the 1490s, but his name occurs in the accounts of the d'Este family at Ferrara from 1502 to 1512. The climax of Matteo's career was his activity in Rome, where he was apparently responsible for a number of luxury illuminated liturgical manuscripts. In 1520 he illuminated a missal for Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, the future Pope Clement VII (1523–34). The initial shown here comes from another missal that he must have illuminated around the same time. This missal was most probably in the Sistine Chapel sacristy when it was sacked by Napoleon's troops in 1798.

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